“Every day should be Women’s Day”. Kicking off a celebration of International Women’s Day, Fumbi Chima, Chief Information Officer of Walmart Asia, set the tone for the morning on March 4th at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Diplomatic Courier’s annual summit this year featured discussion on the impact of top global women in politics and business.

The event, co-hosted this year with Women's Democracy Network, featured discussion on the impact of top global women in politics and business. From leaders in industry to elected political leaders, the speakers highlighted the great strides women have made in multiple fields. Much of the event was also focused on the work that still needs to be done. Ideas for the future of female representation, and ways to ensure equality and justice for future generations provoked a great deal of debate.

Following Ms. Chima’s speech, Jon Clifton, Managing Director of Gallup’s World Poll asked a key question to all the women present: “How are you doing?” Gallup has spent years interviewing women around the globe, finding out how they felt about their lives, jobs, security, and other measures. Having this data, Clifton said, is essential to determine not only what aspects of life are currently lacking for women, but also what needs to be done to ensure that the gender gap continues to close. Although presenting negative figures regarding pay and safety, he shared a piece of positive news as well. Overall, Gallup found that women rate their lives slightly better than men, which they felt can be attributed to the optimistic nature of women in many parts of the world, that despite hardships satisfaction in life can still be found.

Global women, including Dr. Joyce Banda, the former President of Malawi, focused on women’s political participation and economic empowerment. As the guests debated and took questions, a common theme occurred during conversation on the future of women in politics. As far as women have come, true and meaningful progress cannot be fully realized without the support of men. According to Dr. Jorida Tabaku, a Member of the Albanian Parliament, participation is the key for getting women’s voices heard, and having the cooperation of both men and women.

Being a true leader, remarked Dr. Banda, means not only fighting for your own representation, but also mentoring youth so that they are able to participate. For many of the panelists, the desire to make consequential change prompted involvement in politics. A lack of women in government was a driving factor for Wafa Mustafa, a Member of the House of Representatives in Jordan. She noted that encouraging women to run, and to vote for women in office is essential in promoting women’s issues, and making them part of the overall discussion.

While political participation is critical, the economic strength of women sparked powerful conversation as well. A question for the panel that generated a lot of discussion was about the effects of being wives and mothers on a woman’s drive for success.  Erdenechimeg Luvsan, a Member of the Mongolian Parliament, explained that success in any field and creating a family shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. A sentiment carried forward throughout the talk, especially in regard to economic standing. Selima Ahmad, with the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the need for economic equality but mentioning that “Women don’t want to be seen as a charity. We want to be seen as equal”.

One of the most powerful anecdotes of the day came from Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland. She recalled a moment when a young boy came up to her, asking if a man could ever become the president, because it was “a woman’s job”. As Cindy McCain closed out the conference, she repeated that story, illustrating that seeing women as leaders shouldn’t be an outlier. McCain also presented the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick award to President Halonen and Oyun Sanjaasuren, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Environment of Mongolia. Their contributions in promoting the political participation and empowerment of women were highlighted as inspiration for women in both the present and the future.

Although International Women’s Day occurs only once per year, the March 4th conference made it abundantly clear that every day is a struggle for women to achieve equality and recognition around the world. But as the panels of speakers and award recipients made even clearer, is that the strength and determination of women is unrivaled. 

Special note: Diplomatic Courier would like to thank the co-host, Women's Democracy Network, partners and sponsors: Gallup, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, GB Group Global, Global Voice Hall, Walmart, and Ethan Allen for their support and generous contributions.

Videos: To watch videos from the day as well as exclusive interviews, visit our Youtube channel.

The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.